Should you get an antibody test? (Atlantic)

A user’s guide to the immune system.

The road to ending social distancing is less contentious than it may seem. Many priorities are clear: Invest in comprehensive testing for the coronavirus, in effectively treating the disease, and in vaccine development and production. Invest in research to understand transmission of the virus, and precisely how to prevent it.

The fundamental mystery to solve is how people develop immunity, the key to which will be testing for antibodies in the blood. Identifying antibodies will help inform contact tracing; determine the effectiveness of vaccines; and clarify who may be susceptible to re-infection, and at what point, and why.

Antibody tests (sometimes referred to as serology) have begun rolling out across the country, to much fanfare. Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an “aggressive” deployment of tests — and early numbers have suggested that about 15 percent of people in the state have antibodies to the coronavirus. Some pundits and armchair immunologists have implied that high rates of antibodies mean that cities could reopen quickly. Some take the apparently high number of asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to mean the disease is not that bad, and that social-distancing measures have proved to be an overreaction…

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